6 Strategies for Designing Better Marketing Collateral Now

megaphone showing different types of conference collateral

Self-quarantining remains very much a reality for many — if not most — of your audiences. And as you’ve probably noticed, this new reality has made it more important than ever that brands develop agile marketing strategies involving a range of collateral that can reach audiences no matter where they are. But with every brand taking this approach, you also need to create content that will make you stand out from the crowd. 

Let’s take a look at some strategies that can help you improve your marketing collateral today. 

1. Put visual content first.

If you’re not getting the kind of engagement you’d like, there could be any number of reasons why. But one of the most common mistakes brands make is relying too heavily on text. Today’s audiences are overwhelmed. It’s likely that they’re encountering more branded content than at any other time in human history. And they’re less willing to commit the time to read your content. 

Clearly, organizations need to invest in visual content. But just any visual content won’t do, either. Stock images and icons, which are often a fundamental part of DIY design tools, can only take you so far. In fact, they can look so cookie-cutter as to be off-brand, and might leave people with a poor or incorrect impression of your organization. And it’s just as likely that they’ll be ignored completely. After all, your audiences have a lot of great visual content to choose from. You need to give them a reason to stop and pay attention.  

2. Embrace authenticity.

If you’re not paying attention to Generation Z, you should be. One in four Americans belong to this group. And one of the most important things we know about them is that they value authenticity in the brands that they interact with. 

And why shouldn’t they? As consumers gain more transparency on how industries and organizations impact the world around them socially, ethically, and environmentally, we’re not only empowered to make better choices — rather, it’s our responsibility. 

That’s why you need to ask hard questions to ensure that any expression of your brand delivers an authentic and transparent picture of who you are. And this takes us to the next strategy: defining your values. 

3. Be clear on your values.

If you can’t be open about how you source your product, about your tangible commitments to social and racial justice, or about your impact on the world, it’s time to take a step back and reassess. Are you delivering something that your customers would be proud to be associated with? If not, it may be time to make some fundamental changes. 

This type of work should come before you develop a marketing strategy, and certainly before you produce any content. That’s because your marketing content is a reflection of your brand, a visual expression of your brand strategy. So are there topics you’re avoiding, or that you don’t have a clear answer on? If you feel there are things you can’t be transparent about, that’s when it’s time to go back to the drawing board on your brand values and how you manifest them. 

Only then can you develop a marketing strategy that’s open and direct about what you value as a company and the ways in which you’re committed to making the world a better place. And it’s at this point that you’ll discover all sorts of new ideas for marketing collateral — content that’s designed to showcase what makes you truly special. And that’s something your audiences will value, too. 

4. Look for opportunities to personalize.

Part of creating an authentic experience is delivering content that feels personalized to the user. In fact, today’s audiences increasingly demand these kinds of interactions: 72% say they’re only interested in content that feels personalized to their needs. 

How can you achieve this? One powerful solution is to design interactive media that delivers a unique experience to each user. Just think about how popular Buzzfeed quizzes are. If you’re willing to answer a series of questions, they promise results that feel tailored to you. Likewise, mortgage calculators and tax software deliver customized — and useful! — results when you enter your financial information. Even the Domino’s pizza tracker feels tailored especially to you! 

An interactive infographic or site can have a similar effect. It might incorporate clickable maps, data visualizations, animations, embedded video, or any number of other interactive components. And for each user, this creates a unique journey. You’re free to dive in deeper on the information that interests you most — say, by clicking one state on the map — and skip over the information you don’t need.  

Check out these examples of interactive marketing content for some ideas and inspiration.

Curious what visual communication can do for you?

5. Repurpose your marketing collateral for multiple applications.

It’s just a fact: it takes more time and effort to create high-quality visual content. And this is why so many marketers feel they simply don’t have the resources to put together anything but DIY content. Yet when you design visual content that you can repurpose for multiple channels, platforms, and uses, you can make one piece of quality content go a lot farther with minimal effort. 

Say you want to design a custom header for a new landing page. As part of an important launch, you want this landing page to look great, so you opt for a custom design. Luckily, you can repurpose that header to promote the new landing page on your social media channels by adjusting the dimensions and the messaging for each channel. Now you have 5 additional assets, and they all look as great as the first! Likewise, you can use that header — or a modified version of it — in emails, print materials, slide decks … the options truly are only limited by your imagination.

Creating a library of reusable assets is a great option, too — something we call a visual workbench. This might consist of icons that relate to your product offerings or fundamental services. It might be industry-related data visualizations that you often reference. Or it could be headers for certain categories of blog post, like the one at the top of this post — an illustration we use for any article related to visual marketing. 

6. Develop a campaign-based marketing strategy.

It’s easy to feel like your marketing strategy is more reactive than proactive. You’re rushing to ensure your content is relevant to the conversations and topics your customers care about. This is all the more true in 2020, a year of great upheavals and challenges. 

But if you’re producing one piece of content after another, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Rather, you’re missing an opportunity — and what’s more, you may be making more work for yourself, not less. 

As hard as it may seem, it’s time to take a step back. Think about how your pieces of content might relate to each other, and how they can tell a larger story about your brand. Ensure that your branding guidelines are still complete, relevant, and applicable to the types of content you’re producing; adjust and update them if necessary. 

Then group your content into unique campaigns. Each should have a clear and measurable goal and a defined target audience. You should also decide whether each needs its own unique art direction, or “visual language,” or if it can adhere to your brand guidelines.

For an example of a campaign with a unique visual language, check out our Strategic Content Summit landing page. You’ll see we use a unique pattern and a shade of green that are not a part of our normal branding as it appears on any other part of our site. All social assets and related collateral within the campaign have this same look and feel. 

If you’re looking to produce better marketing collateral this year, take a step back and try these 5 strategies. They may be just the thing you need to take your content to the next level. 

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Erin McCoy

Author Erin McCoy

Erin McCoy is director of content marketing and public relations at Killer Visual Strategies. She earned her BA in Spanish with minors in French and Russian, and holds 2 master’s degrees from the University of Washington: an MFA in creative writing and an MA in Hispanic literature. She has won nearly 2 dozen awards in photojournalism, and has dedicated those skills to boosting Killer’s brand recognition and thought leadership in visual communication. Since Erin took on her marketing/PR role, Killer has been named a member of the Inc. 5000 for 4 years in a row; has been featured in such publications as Inc., Forbes, Mashable, and the Huffington Post; and has been invited to present at such conferences as SXSW and SMX Advanced.

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